Week 4 of the 2023 Legislative Session

With the Senate's adjournment on Friday, we have officially reached the halfway mark on the 2023 30-day Legislative Session. Week four was the most productive yet, as the Senate passed over 20 bills, sending them to the state House of Representatives for consideration. This meant an incredibly busy week for me as Senate Majority Floor Leader as I led the chamber through the daily legislative floor proceedings.

The following are some bills clearing the Senate this past week:

Senate Bill 5 garnered much attention on the Senate floor. Some of the opposition to the bill was somewhat astounding but I suppose it is a product of the times we are living in. The bill simply ensures parental engagement in decision making regarding a student's access to sexual and obscene materials that may be inappropriate or harmful to minors. It defines sex-related materials, programs, or events that a parent may reasonably consider offensive and unsuitable for children. The bill would require a local school board to adopt a complaint resolution policy to address parent/guardian objections to content their child has access to that they may consider harmful. The measure would require a parent have a process to address a grievance, which would start by a letter to the principal who must then respond in a reasonable amount of time with a decision on if or if not the materials, programs or events will be removed. It allows parents to appeal to the local school board, which must then operate transparently in its decision. Despite some mischaracterizations of the bill by those who want you to believe the sky is falling, Senate Bill 5 is a good bill for parents and students.

Senate Bill 99 aims to get to the bottom of Governor Andy Beshear's administration's incompetence in the management of the "Team Kentucky" relief funds that were set up following western and eastern Kentucky natural disasters. The handling and oversight of these two funds, to quote my fellow northern Kentucky delegate and Senate colleague Chris McDaniel, "appears to be a mess of epic proportions." Over 200 checks have been misappropriated through the "Team West Kentucky" fund, going to people who were not even impacted by the storm.

Kind-hearted people worldwide donated to this fund, probably thinking it was a 501(c)(3), which it is not. It's not a contribution they use as a tax deduction, so we must shine a light on what has gone wrong. Treasurer Allison Ball has done a fantastic job stopping checks that were on their way to people who were not storm victims, but we need to learn more.

The concept of a Governor setting up a fund like this is concerning because it sets a dangerous precedent despite agreement that supporting storm victims is a noble cause. What happens when a fund is set up for something politically controversial?

Senate Bill 9, better known as 'Lofton's Law,' criminalizes hazing by establishing a first and second-degree hazing statute. First-degree hazing is defined as intentional or wanton hazing related to conduct that results in physical injury or death to a minor or student—A Class D felony. The fact that an organization sanctioned or approved the conduct is not a defense against this charge. Second-degree hazing is defined as reckless participation in hazing. Neither consent nor sanctioned conduct may be used as a defense against this charge.

'Lofton's Law' is named to honor the memory of a University of Kentucky student who died from alcohol poisoning believed to be the result of fraternity hazing.

Senate Bill 107 mitigates political influence upon the Kentucky Board of Education and the education commissioner by establishing the Kentucky Board of Education Nomination Committee and setting requirements for the political balance of appointees and appointees' term limitations. Unfortunately, we have become all too familiar with the politicization of the board through gubernatorial appointments no matter who holds executive office. The bill would require the education commissioner to be confirmed by the Senate, subject them to an annual review by the Kentucky Board of Education, and stipulate service for a designated period, at most four years.

I am most often contacted about sports betting, and I am aware of a measure introduced in the state House of Representatives on the issue. The bill includes an appropriation, so it must constitutionally begin with the House. I will remain a supporter and advocate of sports betting in the Senate. Whether it will have enough support in our chamber is to be determined. We have six new members that could play in the bill's favor, but in a 30-day session, appropriations bills like the sports betting bill require a higher threshold of votes (23) to pass.

You can follow the status of bills at legislature.ky.gov and watch live legislative activity at KET.org/legislature. You can also track the status of other legislation by calling 866-840-2835, legislative meeting information at 800-633-9650, or leaving a message for lawmakers at 800-372-7181.